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Over the past few years, I’ve thought a lot about how I think and feel about wild places, our public lands, and the rules, regulations, and agencies that govern them. As a long-time resident of Beatty, Nevada near the headwaters of the Amargosa River, one such wild place that I care deeply about is Ash Meadows National Wildlife Refuge. 

Ash Meadows is a wetland oasis on the shoulder of Death Valley National Park. The springs, seeps, and wetland habitat areas found in Ash Meadows are fed by the flowing ancient groundwater of the Amargosa River: the same river that provides me with the water I drink and use every day. Thousands of people from around the world come to this area to experience the unique beauty of Ash Meadows, the Amargosa River, and Death Valley: stunning irreplaceable landscapes just outside our front door. 

When I became aware of an exploratory drilling project on the doorstep of Ash Meadows proposed by a Canadian company called Rover Metals, my immediate reaction was to think, “how could this happen?” No one but this mining company thinks it’s a good idea. The Bureau of Land Management rescinded their approval of the project last summer after our community and many others raised our voices, urging them not to put such an incredibly delicate ecosystem like Ash Meadows at risk. 

The fact that this company came even close to drilling holes feet away from springs in Ash Meadows – and that they and other mining companies continue to propose projects on its borders – should be a wake up call to everyone who cares about this special place. 

I first went to Ash Meadows over 40 years ago. It had not yet been designated as a refuge at that time. I remember how absolutely beautiful it was, how quiet it was save for the sounds of birds, wildlife, and flowing water. There weren’t many other people around back then, and it seemed we were in this oasis that was just for us, separate from the rest of the world. It could have been another world, with its bright blue waters, clear blue sky, and seemingly total isolation. 

Like many of the people who live in this remote corner of Nevada, I feel an emotional attachment to Ash Meadows. Forty years or more ago, I wasn’t aware of how special this place was, only that it was a fun place to spend a hot afternoon. Now I understand the significance of this one-of-a-kind place. I don’t think I can find enough adjectives to convey just what Ash Meadows means to me, or to express my concern at how mining and exploratory drilling could affect this sensitive oasis. 

There are at least 26 species of plants, fish, amphibians, and other wildlife that are found at Ash Meadows and nowhere else on the planet. Let me say that again: nowhere else on the planet! That alone should inform any company, agency, or persons about how to treat this place. We should treat it with kid gloves, not drill rigs and regulations that don’t properly protect it. 

This sentiment is shared by many residents in Beatty and beyond. We care deeply about Ash Meadows because we live here. We play and work here. We enjoy and cherish what we have. We don’t ask for much. We are asking that common sense prevail and our leaders in our federal lands agencies and in Congress take urgent action to protect Ash Meadows from the impacts of mining on its borders.

Ash Meadows Wildlife Refuge should be cared for and cherished. We should learn from the Devils Hole pupfish, found only there, in one spring, on one shelf in that spring, how they have survived. We might need to know.

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